In February of 1861 many of the states in the southern part of the United States decided to form their own country. They called it the Confederate States of America. However, the northern states did not agree that these states had the right to leave. This started the Civil War.
South Carolina Secedes
The first state to leave the United States was South Carolina on December 20, 1860. When a state leaves a country it's called seceding. This means they didn't want to be a part of the United States any more and wanted to make their own government. By February of 1861 a number of states had seceded including Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. Later, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Arkansas would join them.
When the Southern states actually seceded and formed their own country, Abraham Lincoln and many others were shocked. They didn't think that the states would really leave. When President Lincoln became president he was determined to reunite all the states under one government.
Map of the Confederate States of America by Nicholas F. Click to see larger view
Why did the Southern States leave?
There were a number of reasons why the Southern States wanted to leave. A few of the major reasons were:
State rights - The leaders in the South wanted the states to make most of their own laws. In the North, people wanted a stronger national government that would make the same laws for all the states.
Slavery - Most of the Southern states had economies based on farming and felt they needed enslaved labor to help them farm. The North was more industrialized and much of the North had made slavery illegal. The South was afraid that the Northern states would vote to make slavery illegal in all the states.
Western States - As there were more and more western states added to the growing United States, the Southern states were worried that this would mean less power and voting rights.
Abraham Lincoln - When Abraham Lincoln was elected president, it was the final straw for the Southern states. Lincoln was against slavery and wanted a strong federal government, two things the South did not agree with.
Jefferson Davis by Brady National Photographic Art Gallery
Who led the Confederation?
The President of the Confederation was Jefferson Davis from Mississippi. The Confederation had its own set of laws called the Confederate Constitution. Military leaders for the Confederation Army included Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and James Longstreet.
The Confederation acted like an official government. They had their own money, their own capital city (it was first in Montgomery, Alabama and later in Richmond, Virginia), and they tried to form alliances with foreign countries like Britain and France. Britain and France did not recognize the Confederation as a country, however. Neither did any other foreign country. Not having allies hurt the Southern states in the end.